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Funktion-One victorious in Chinese trademark battle

After an eight-year fight, the British loudspeaker manufacturer has finally won an important trademark case relating to the use of its name and company logo in China.

After a lengthy, costly and complex dispute, loudspeaker manufacturer Funktion-One has finally won an important trademark case relating to the use of its name and company logo in China.

The case follows the pre-emptive registration of the Funktion-One name and logo by Wu Meiling in March 2005. The British company, under representation from Wilkinson & Grist, challenged the move and won – vindicating the time, costs and resources that have been absorbed by the long process.

Funktion-One received invaluable support from industry allies, including members of the trade press and organisations including PLASA and Prolight + Sound, who helped to assemble evidence that greatly assisted the case.

A statement from Wilkinson & Grist reads: “In representing Funktion One Research Limited (Funktion-One), an internationally renowned inventor and manufacturer of professional point source loudspeaker systems, we are pleased to have successfully established that the trademark filed by Wu Meiling – a Chinese individual – is a pre-emptive registration of the Funktion-One mark, which has attained a certain level of influence in China prior to the filing of Wu’s mark.”

The People’s Republic of China’s trademark law prohibits pre-emptive registration of a trademark that is already in use by another person, in respect of identical or similar goods that have gained a certain level of influence in the country. Funktion-One’s case focused on the international reputation it has grown since it was formed by John Newsham and Tony Andrews in 1992 and its prominence in China. The company’s distinctive axehead waveguide logo is shown above.

“Funktion One’s products have gained high regard internationally for their unique techniques and designs,” continues the Hong Kong law firm’s statement. “Wu’s mark was filed on 16 March 2005 in respect of, inter alia, loudspeakers and sound reproduction apparatus, and is a substantial reproduction of Funktion-One’s marks.”

The Trademark Review and Adjudication Board (TRAB) ruled that the voluminous evidence clearly showed that the Funktion-One mark was not only well known internationally, but also in China. TRAB adjudged that the mark has attained “certain influence” in the country.

Funktion-One’s evidence included its participation in international and local exhibitions, features in international and local trade magazines (including PSNEurope) and records of the professional awards that the company has won. Specific correspondences from Chinese companies expressing strong interest in doing business with Funktion-One added to the compelling argument.

Following the successful opposition of Wu’s mark, Funktion-One also succeeded in securing registration of its own Funktion-One mark in China.

Reflecting on the triumph, Funktion-One’s Ann Andrews said: “It’s a huge relief,” said F1’s Ann Andrews after the ruling. “China is a very important market for us. Obviously, we’d prefer not to face threats to our trademarks and copyrights, but we fought and won, so we’re very pleased about that. Our representatives, Wilkinson & Grist, have been brilliant, professional and diligent throughout. As have the trade press, PLASA and Prolight + Sound. We’d like to thank them for their support. Hopefully this sends out a positive message to the industry.”